Sunday, November 15, 2009
The family spent a long late afternoon at the opera today with the Strauss/Hofmannsthal Frau ohne Schatten, which I had not heard since college. It's a monster of a piece, a Märchenoper (fairytale opera) in which the orchestra really gets to show off, pulling out all the stops, and the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra under Sebastian Weigle is sounding very good these days indeed, which alone made going worthwhile. Also, listening this time was a reminder that the breadth of vocal technique required suggested that Strauss was less distant to the extended techniques of the late 20th century than one would reflexively suppose. But all that said, there was something a bit embarrassing about spending time with the piece as a work of theatre. Does anyone know of a repertoire opera that is more retrograde about the role of women? (Stockhausen's Montag comes close, but it's not repertoire.) Between its essentialist reduction of women to child-bearers (in the logic of the opera, humans require shadows, but women who cannot bear children have no shadows, thus...) and the closing choruses sung by "unborn children", I now have a small terror that Die Frau ohne Schatten is going to be taken up as a pageant piece by the religious right.